// Top marks for Liu Jia but not the winning that counts - International Table Tennis Federation

02 May 2020

Crowned European champion in 2005 in Aarhus, Liu Jia emerged the one unbeaten player on Saturday 2nd May at the Top of Austria Challenge staged in Vienna.

However, different to the efforts made in the Danish city, the name of a winner was not the important factor, the crucial element was that table tennis returned and was broadcast live on ORF, the national television station.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

In best of three games matches Stefan Fegerl played Daniel Habesohn, after Liu Jia had faced Karoline Mischek, the last minute replacement for Sofia Polcanova who had felt pain in her left hip and may well have to undergo surgery.

Next on the list, in best of five games contests, Daniel Habesohn opposed Karoline Mischek, Stefan Fegerl confronted Liu Jia.

  • Liu Jia beat Karoline Mischek 8-11, 11-7, 11-9
  • Stefan Fegerl beat Daniel Habesohn 11-8, 11-6
  • Daniel Habesohn beat Karoline Mischek 9-11, 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 8-6
  • Liu Jia beat Stefan Fegerl 11-7, 11-3, 9-11, 8-11, 5-3

 
Moreover, they were contests with a difference, in each game except the fifth, the woman was awarded a six point start. In the fifth, the advantage was three points, the target was five points or two points clear if parity.

The system was not fair, with a 6-0 lead for us it is already difficult for the men. In any case, the competition was fun. We don’t have the opportunity to play  the men. I think we showed some really good matches and also promoted our sport. We have seen that after the long break we are all still away from our normal form. Today’s tournament was a in good location!” Liu Jia

“She played very smart. It has been seen that she has a lot of experience. Also, she has a good, very flat service; it is very difficult to actively return. If you start with 0-6, it doesn’t make it any easier!” Stefan Fegerl

Stefan Fegerl plays Liu Jia, Werner Thury maintains oder (Photo: courtesy of Karl Jindrak)

 

Experienced but new experience

Overseeing matters in the umpire’s chair was Werner Thury; having been the Referee at many of the world’s major tournaments and appointed to fulfil the same role at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, he is one of the most experienced officials on planet earth.

However, conducting matters in the ballroom used for “Dancing with the Stars” was a new experience. In accordance with hygiene requirements he wore a mask and gloves, vigorously cleaning the table surface between matches.

Moreover, he had a further task, although he allowed play to flow, his favourite word was “stop”. It was not because the players had infringed the rules, it was in order that the cameras could broadcast slow motion replays.

Nevertheless, just as good players adapt, so do good umpires, Werner Thury conducted matters to perfection.

Different scenario

Equally, for the players it was a very different experience. A ballroom, it was a wooden floor, not a court mat as in the modern era. Thus the mind went back some 30 years when that was the favoured surface. Damp towels were placed at the opposite side of the table to that of the umpire, enabling the players to wipe any dust of their feet and thus avoid slipping.

Furthermore, the players did not change ends between games, they not shake hands at the end of the match; in addition, with no spectators, the atmosphere was perhaps somewhat surreal.

Of course, the organisers had no choice, they had to meet the needs of safety and cleanliness.

Daniel Habesohn meets Karoline Mischek in the third match of the day; Werner Thury officiates (Photo: courtesy of Karl Jindrak)

 

Nostalgia

Success for Liu Jia on an occasion when there was an air of nostalgia,

Both Karl Jindrak and Werner Schlager were present; now 15 years ago, when Liu Jia had won the women’s singles title at the European Championships, they had also combined to be crowned men’s doubles champions.

Karl Jindrak was designated to duty in the arena, for Werner Schlager it was the role of colour commentator and reflecting on the day in 2003 in Paris when he was crowned world champion. He sat in a studio alongside match commentator, Michael Roscher; the two being divided by a glass screen. Somewhat similarly for player interviews they were alone in a separate studio.

Social distancing was observed in a tournament with difference but most importantly a tournament; top marks to Austria.

General News Daniel Habesohn Liu Jia Stefan Fegerl Werner Schlager Karoline Mischek Michael Roscher Karl Jindrak